Written by Coby Enteen The value of creating in-depth, meaningful learning experiences for students through a cross-curricular or multidisciplinary teaching approaches have long been justified; however the feasibility of teaching this way, is somewhat questionable. This is due to a large degree […]
New teaching practices, should we really change the way we teach? Understanding The “Thawing Principle”
Written by Coby Enteen Every so often we are overtaken by new teaching practices and learning methods such as Flip Classroom, Project-based Learning, MOOC’s, Blended Learning and so on. We often hear about them at conferences, from a school administrator or from fellow teachers and they make […]
By Coby Enteen Attending regional, national and international professional conferences are often times a confusing experience for educators, whom are sometimes overwhelmed by the sheer number and scope of technology solutions presented. Vendors are trying to promote products and increase sales, […]
By Coby Enteen Project-based Learning (PBL) has gained a great deal steam and has been adopted and implemented in many forms, over the course of the last decade. Teachers invest endless hours in dissecting topics, planning activities, writing questions, organizing […]
by Coby Enteen Mobile devices are slowly transforming the educational landscape for teachers on a global scale. In a recent trip to Africa I had the opportunity to work with local K-12 teachers on utilizing and incorporating digital tools into the […]
By now, you’ve probably read enough to be convinced that it’s worth trying games in your classroom. You understand that games are not meant to be robot teachers, replacing the human-to-human relationship. Games are a tool that teachers can use to do their jobs more effectively and more efficiently. Games provide a different approach to developing metacognitive skills through persistent self-reflection and iteration of particular skill sets. Games offer experiential contextualized learning through virtual simulation. Games can also offer an especially engaging interdisciplinary learning space.
Written by Coby Enteen
The value of creating in-depth, meaningful learning experiences for students through a cross-curricular or multidisciplinary teaching approaches have long been justified; however the feasibility of teaching this way, is somewhat questionable. This is due to a large degree to the existing structure of the school, primarily at the secondary level where faculty is divided into isolated subject areas or departments, each working as an independent “island” in a sea of small land masses. The goal of the approach presented is to unify these islands into a single land-mass or nation state, which shares common knowledge and teaching practices.
Creating multi-disciplinary instructional teams can provide a basic solution to developing collaborative learning projects which incorporate cross-curricular teaching. This teacher task-force will typically collaborate on developing and implementing a specific project or small number of teaching units which is effective in showcasing the multi-disciplinary teaching approach, but falls short of a long-term solution. This team provides only a superficial “band-aid” solution to the problem. The existing structure of the secondary school does not support this kind of structure, no does it allot time for this type of collaboration. So, you ask: how do we create a secondary school environment which works successfully implements a cross-curricular learning approach? There is no definitive answer other than either rebuilding a school from the ground-up or the need for re-examining the existing school structure and carving out new practices, which support deeper multidisciplinary connections in the classroom. The key lies in collaborating with school stakeholders and revisiting existing instructional practices.
1. School Leadership – The school principal and lead support staff provide the overall “tone” and pave the way for the pedagogic discourse in the teachers lounge. To this end, the leadership must embrace the cross-curricular approach and echo its principles throughout all of the traditional channels: during teacher meetings, as a topic for professional-development, in the organization of teacher task-teams, and during every available opportunity.
2. Creating a Cross-Curricular Organizational Structure - The key elements of any effective organization can be found in its leadership, structure and mode of operation. Schools need to select an individual with a strong background and understanding of multiple disciplines and subject-areas to head the program. Although typically labeled as a curriculum-Specialist, Media Specialist, or Librarian in many schools, this individual must be able to maintain a “birds-eye” view of the school and its instructional needs, while working collaboratively with subject-area leaders (department heads) to develop a collective curriculum map.
3. Instructional Weaving – The transition from a single-subject teaching practice to a multidisciplinary one will require the finding of “common-threads” which enable the teaching and reinforcing the curriculum standards of one subject-area through another. This is the process of Instructional Weaving and it is accomplished through defining thematic topics that are both relevant to the students lives and incorporate instructional principles to be taught. The school curriculum map will provide a basis for determining the intersections between the subjects taught throughout the year and provide a framework for teacher-teams to weave the curriculum together.
4. Cross-Curricular Bonding – The final step involves putting the plans into motion by teaching the thematic lesson units involving the different subjects with other other subjects in mind. Teachers will need to gradually shift from a single area focus to one that involves being part of a whole. Time must be allotted for teachers of other disciplines to talk with one-another on a regular basis. This can be accomplished through scheduling short 10-15 minute meetings to discuss the progress and help one another tweak the teaching practices. The program leader (described in step 2) must receive regular progress reports as to guide the process at a school level.
Cross-curricular teaching is often viewed as an ideal mode of instruction offering for in-depth and meaningful learning. The existing secondary school structure was built according to a uni-disciplinary model emphasizing the isolated teaching of subjects leaving little room for cross-curricular collaboration. Therefore, schools must adopt a new set of organizational and curricular principles in order to effectively introduce a multidisciplinary teaching and learning process.
Here are some additional articles on Cross-Curricular Learning:
The way mathematics is being taught in schools is quickly losing relevancy to the needs of society and fails to prepare students for the modern day workforce in a constantly changing economy. New instructional pedagogies are slowly changing this but in order to be effective we must pick up the pace.
Read more on the topic at:
New teaching practices, should we really change the way we teach? Understanding The “Thawing Principle”
Written by Coby Enteen
Every so often we are overtaken by new teaching practices and learning methods such as Flip Classroom, Project-based Learning, MOOC’s, Blended Learning and so on. We often hear about them at conferences, from a school administrator or from fellow teachers and they make us feel inadequate and uncomfortable for not knowing enough and mainly for not teaching this way. Does this mean that we should stop what we are doing (many times very effectively for very long) and switch over to this new way of teaching? Definitely not! Those of us that have been involved in education for a while understand the “Thawing Principle”, meaning that these so-called innovate pedagogic methods are nothing more than ideas and will typically go through a three-stage process in which they start out as the “next best thing” in education, then once tested in the field become an “effective strategy”, and from there move to the “something else to do with your students” category.
New teaching practices do have many benefits for the seasoned teacher, they give us new ideas and help us refresh ourselves professional, they enable us to step out of our comfort zone and help us think differently about what we are doing, and in some cases provide us with new ways for reaching students and maybe even exciting them about learning. In order to gain the most out of these practices it is important to view them objectively asking yourself: is there something from this that I can take back to my classroom? and if so, how can I incorporate it into my teaching practices? From that point, ‘the sky is the limit!’ Some teachers will gradually adopt and incorporate the process, while others will not. The key is to avoid being intimidated.
It is time for educators to stop being intimidated by new instructional practices and put them into their true context. They should be thought of in terms of a “Thawing Principle” and will ultimately go through the natural process of becoming a good idea for some and a better idea for others. Moreover, the adoption of new instructional practices is gradual and varies from one teacher to the next. It is therefore time to stop presenting them as the “next best thing” in education and look at them instead as innovative tools that can help us advance the nature of education.
By Coby Enteen
Attending regional, national and international professional conferences are often times a confusing experience for educators, whom are sometimes overwhelmed by the sheer number and scope of technology solutions presented. Vendors are trying to promote products and increase sales, often with little regard to the actual needs of the educators. It becomes difficult to decipher what is useful and what will really provide the much-needed boost to a specific school system, district or program. In this brief posting, I will provide a method for finding relevant solution, or finding that ‘diamond in the rough’ that will give the much needed boost to your educational programs.
I recently had the opportunity to attend the annual British Educational Training and Technology (BETT) Show, which is one of the largest in the western hemisphere, showcasing hundreds of educational technology solutions and best practices from around the world. Every year, the BETT show brings together approximately 50,000 educators, exhibitors and vendors in a week-long event in central London. Visitors spend days circulating around the exhibit hall, networking with peers, attending professional sessions and participating in marketing events. The average educational leader becomes inundated with knowledge about products and solutions; some relevant and others less-important, making the decision making process overwhelmingly difficult and vendor-driven, which begs the question: do we want our public funds to be spent on the technology that is most effectively marketed? Should schools and students exposed to technology and content solutions that we are pressured into buying or is there another way of going about this process?
The correct response to these questions are that effective decision-making should be based on instructional/pedagogic need alone. One of the most effective ways of addressing the educational technology selection and purchasing process should include the following:
- When attending a professional conference or show it is important to first and foremost act as an observer and develop a sense of orientation. Observe the products from a ‘birds eye view’ perspective and get a general understanding of what is offered.
- Learn to categorize products and solutions based on function and perspective educational needs.
- Evaluate your organizations specific educational goals and needs – What problem are you trying address and how do the product types/categories that you’ve observed solve these problems?
- Select product categories that are relevant to these needs and examine them further.
- Prepare a list of specific questions, locate and approach the key product vendors with solutions that fall within these categories. Examine each product extensively from an educational perspective and select only the ones that meet a pedagogic need (even then, do so cautiously!).
The effective selection of education technology products is often a daunting task. The key is to begin with educational and instructional needs and avoid the lure of marketing efforts. The five-step process listed above provides a way to find that diamond in the rough that may significantly advance your program.
By Coby Enteen
Project-based Learning (PBL) has gained a great deal steam and has been adopted and implemented in many forms, over the course of the last decade. Teachers invest endless hours in dissecting topics, planning activities, writing questions, organizing information, consulting with fellow educators, correlating to standards, and learning new technologies only to discover that the PBL unit takes up too much time and is largely out of synch with the school schedule, requirements, and other teaching taking place in the school. In addition, inquiry-based learning (IBL) has largely been viewed as an effective means for improving the understanding of science concepts, and developing much needed critical thinking skills among students (Edelson, Gordon, & Pea, 1999). Although tremendously effective in some environments, the IBL approach involves a great deal of preparation and is largely difficult to implement. The challenges presented by these two methods, combined with the lack of teacher time and resources has brought about a third alternative, which has been coined the Question-based Learning (QBL) technique.
QBL is largely based on the principals of PBL and IBL, taking into account the constraints of the typical classroom. While PBL is designed to encourage the development of 21st century skills while promoting student thought and motivation (Blumenfeld, 1991), and IBL encourages learning that is based on investigation; QBL is designed to incorporate both methods through short and adaptable process, which combines traditional teaching with inquiry, research, product development, reporting, and assessment. Solomon (2008) argues that “introducing and implementing PBL in a traditional school setting can be a complex challenge, requiring a significant change in teachers’ approaches to teaching and students’ approaches to learning.” In reality this required ‘change in approach’ has the negative affects of leading to the disintegration of effective learning practices and methods. The QBL process provides a more practical and adaptable instructional approach, as illustrated below (figure 1).
When effectively implemented, the QBL method provides an attainable framework for teachers to deliver content in a flexible, yet dynamic fashion. Students engage in traditional learning activities for knowledge acquisition, transition into discovery learning and research, then work collaboratively to integrate creativity with advanced levels of thinking to both create and present products. The discovery learning approach fits in well with QBL, because it allows students to actively investigate and explore new content, while developing sound strategies for learning the new material (McDaniel & Schlager, 1990).
QBL is an effective process for incorporating modern-day instructional approaches into the classroom. The many constraints placed on educators, combined with the drive to improve education as a whole place a great deal of pressure on the teacher, who often finds it difficult to implement innovative methodologies in an effective manner.
Blumenfeld, P.C., Soloway, E., Marx, R.W., Krajcik, J.S., Guzdial , M., & Palincsar, A. (1991). Motivating Project-Based Learning: Sustaining the Doing, Supporting the Learning. Educational Psychologist, 26(3-4), 369-398
Edelson, D., Gordin, D., & Pea, R. (1999). Addressing the Challenges of Inquiry-Based Learning Through Technology and Curriculum Design. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 8(3-4), 391-450.
McDaniel, M., & Schlager, M. (1990). Discovery Learning and Transfer of Problem-Solving Skills. Cognition and Instruction,7(2), 129-159.
Solomon, G. (2008, 11). Project-Based Learning: a Primer .Classroom Technology News | Educational Apps | Bloom’s Taxonomy | techlearning.com. Retrieved Oct 21, 2013, from http://techlearning.com
by Coby Enteen
Mobile devices are slowly transforming the educational landscape for teachers on a global scale. In a recent trip to Africa I had the opportunity to work with local K-12 teachers on utilizing and incorporating digital tools into the classroom.
This program took place in Ghana, which is a country with approximately 20 million people, of which 90% complete primary school grades and only a very small percentage move on to finish a twelfth grade education, and even fewer achieve a post secondary education.
A majority of the schools in Ghana lack the technological resources and facilities that we have become accustomed to in the western world. In the larger cities, some schools have computer labs and teachers use their own laptops where available. Another issue is the lack of internet access and instability of the electrical system, which is often times overloaded and causes blackouts.
The one aspect “leveling the field” is the increased access to mobile devices. It is very common to see individuals walking around with two mobile devices; one for work and one for personal use. These devices offer tremendous opportunities for the advancement of the field of education, particularly as related to the ability to teach 21st century skills and to provide easy access to information commonly available to individuals throughout the western world.
A number of barriers still remain to the effective incorporation of these devices into the classroom:
- High cost of data – In many developing countries where food and health care are still a main concern, individuals are unable to afford the high cost of data, which is buoyed by little competition within the cellular communication market.
- Breaking the traditional teaching model – Although digital education has become a commonplace term throughout the western world, the concept of educational transformation and 21st century skills is still a foreign concept to a majority of educators throughout the developing world.
- Opening the eyes of educators to the possibilities of technology in education – Teachers throughout the developing world often times lack the basic skills required for utilizing the technology for teaching and for guiding student work.
Mobile devices are slowly flattening the world in terms of bringing technology into the classroom. The lack of computers and other technologies within the educational arena in the developing world is being supplemented by the widespread availability of mobile devices. We must overcome a number of obstacles in order to meet this challenge and support educational change.
Some highlights that should be noticed are:
- 93% of students use study apps
- 70% of students study solo during exams
- 59% of students use a mobile phone to study
- 42% of students have as favorite place to study their bedroom30% of students prefer to use Google Drive.
Working to better prepare its nation’s students to thrive in a fast-changing and highly-connected world, the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) is promoting the development of self-directed and collaborative learning skills in its third Master Plan for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in Education. As an MOE-designated “Future School in Singapore” and a Mentor School in theMicrosoft Innovative Schools Program, Nan Chiau Primary School (NCPS) is playing a vital role in pushing the frontier of technology to prepare its students for the future.